Ubuntu Rocks on Laptops

I’ve now installed Ubuntu on my old laptop. Wow. Linux has come a long way in the past 3 years. That’s how long its been since I had a Linux system. My last was a homebuilt desktop running Red Hat 9. I ditched it when Fedora came out, and haven’t messed with Linux since. Ubuntu just rocks.

I planned to document the steps that I had to go through to get it successfully installed, for the benefit of others. I even had my pen and paper out. But, I had underestimated the installation process, it was so simple that it wasn’t worth noting the steps. I’m confident that any average PC user could do this.

I’ve installed Windows hundreds of times over the years. And, I’ve installed various versions of Linux dozens of times in the past as well. Windows isn’t difficult, but you do kind of have to know what you’re doing. Linux was a little more painful, mostly because of network settings and installing applications. Which, is why I planned to document this experience for others.

Ubuntu was the easiest O/S I’ve ever installed. The hardest part was getting my system to boot to CD, which has nothing to do with the O/S. Yahoo! saved me, I did a web search and found Bootable CD Loader, created the floppy and booted right to the CD. I only had to answer 5 questions, and it was fast. I mean my Mom could have installed it.

After I got it up and running, I checked out the applications, and it comes with pretty much everything right out of the box. Browser, email client, office suite, games, media player. The system is pretty fast (my laptop has 256Mb of RAM), and the desktop is gorgeous. The GUI is fantastic.

My next task was to install wireless. I was expecting a nightmare. And once again, it was a snap. Here’s what I did, I inserted the card. Ubuntu picked it up, loaded the drivers, started the required services and found our router, all without any interaction from me.

The only tricky part was getting DVD’s to play. I don’t normally watch movies on my computer, but wanted to configure this for the sake of completeness. Before they would play properly, I had to install, in this order, universe & multiverse (explained here), libdvdread3 (explained here), and libdvdcss2 (explained here). That resolved everything so that DVD’s would play, but I went ahead and installed xine-ui also. All of the HOWTO’s that I reference here worked properly for me, so it was a simple process.

One thing of note is that I tried to get DVD’s to play with VLC, and that did not work for me. I couldn’t get one of the file dependencies worked out. I read in forums that others were having the same problems, so switched to getting xine running properly, and that’s what did the trick for me.

So, since this is supposed to be for the benefit of others, I installed Ubuntu 6.06 on a Dell Inspiron 7500. And everything just works. I’ve tested each of these things, and they’re functioning properly: touch pad, wireless, hibernating, burning CDs, playing music CDs, working with USB devices, playing DVD’s, and the battery level indicator. With the exception of DVD playback noted above, there was no configuration involved, Ubuntu accurately detected and configured almost everything.

I just can’t express how impressed I am by how far Linux has come in the past 3 years. I used to think that it would never be a good fit for a desktop system, but this has been a very pleasant experience. I just read in the news this week that Bill Gates is stepping down from his daily role in Microsoft operations. Perhaps he’s experimented with Ubuntu also. Its pretty tough to compete with free, when it works this well.

26 replies on “Ubuntu Rocks on Laptops”

  1. I just installed Ubuntu 6.0.6 on my dell Inspiron 8600 and again as I expected it is a disaster. There are so many linux distributions out there and no one and I mean no one can cope with a 1680×1050 ati resolution.Of course you can download the ati driver and try to install them. And guess what, after about 7 hours of extensive tweaking I managed to get my desired resolution. The very next when booting Ubuntu the system went back to the horrible 800×600 resolution.

    The resultion might be fixed at some point but the fonts in linux are inexceptable. How can people actually work with those blurry fonts. Whenever I see linux screenshots I am glad that I don’t work with linux on my desktop.

  2. I had the exact same experience. In fact I’m thinking of changing over my shinny new Dell to a full Ubuntu system. I like it that much. It was smooth as silk for installation… and I agree easier than windoz!!

  3. I’m glad to see people catching on and realizing how great Ubuntu Linux is, granted I’ve had slightly more problems with it on my laptop, but nothing I couldn’t fix.

    As for my Desktop, no issues! Works perfectly! Ubuntu Linux is the best OS I’ve ever encountered, the first time I booted it up, that was it for me, never did I return to the horror that is MS Windows.

  4. Ubuntu rocks, that’s it. The best reason for make a complete linux switch. I’m going for that despite the lack of design/graphics/video/cad software choices -but projects like Blender Foundation’s Elephants Dream brings some light and hope-

    the only downside: the drivers for my pavilion dv5120 broadcom wifi card. I found some posts and resources but it doesn’t work -btw, any help will be greatly appreciated!-

    Again, Ubuntu Linux rocks. Go for it.

  5. Just wanted to add that xubuntu is also amazing and runs even faster because of the xfce desktop environment. It’s great for older hardware.

  6. Linux is STILL not readyfor prime time. Now Webcam support in GAIM, and no complete IM client published by YAHOO or AOL and obviously MSN.

    Sorry, no good IM. No prime time.
    –dan

  7. I’ve had a great experience with Ubuntu on my desktop – I probably use it as my OS about 60% of the time. On my laptop though it refuses to work with my wifi chipset – though I’m not surprised because even for Windows I needed a very obscure driver. I think the laptop manufacturer has modified the standard intel spec for… I’m sorry did you just say you use Yahoo search?

  8. Thanks to all for reading, and posting comments.

    @whitedude
    The fonts aren’t blurry when you load the max resolution the monitor will support and then adjust the font size as needed. I did this after posting this blog entry, it took me about 10 minutes to load the drivers using apt-get. When I rebooted, x wouldn’t start, so I did a reconfig, which added about another 10 minutes to the amount of time this took. The process worked great for me.

    I can’t explain why you had so much trouble, but then, I’m not sure I understand your problem. You mention a resolution (1680×1050) that I thought was only used on larger flat panel monitors, but the Inspiron 8600 only has a 15.4 screen.

    @Jon
    Yep, Yahoo. I like Google and use them often, but Yahoo is my favorite. Partially because their results are more consistent for me, and partially because I just like Yahoo.

  9. Count me as another Ubuntu fan. I have it on my desktop. Video and sound worked perfectly right off the bat. Add Automatix to get MP3 codes, Flash, SwiftFox, etc. and you’re good to go.

  10. Your conclusion has been true for laptops since the breezy release. Ubuntu “Rocks” for laptops, Desktops, Servers, and just about anything you can put linux on. If you want easy, fast and reliable, this is the best of the three.

    Please remember, ubuntu is not an eleetist group. The new linux world isn’t picking one distribution over the other, it is filled with a group of old and new advocates simply trying to spread linux around the world. We want them all to come.

  11. I can’t agree more. I tried Mandriva 2006, FC5, SuSE 10 and Mepis, but none of these distro install perfect on my Compaq Presario V2000.

    Ubuntu just did it straight out of the box, not considering WLAN though, which continues to be a pain on the neck. But a few tweak, it is up and going …

    They set the standard.

  12. Yeap, it does what Laptops need. The most amazing thing about this *buntu OS’s was that my battery lasts for another extra hour since I put Ubuntu on the laptop. Weird…thought that it was totally damaged (it ain’t). Thought that the laptop’s Hibernating/Suspend features are Hardware damaged, nope, K/Ubuntu works.

    Was about to sell this HP warming device (it constantly keeps 53″Celsious), but since I put Ubuntu on it, no way, it works again. It’s Alive, It’s Alive!!!

    Aleksandar

  13. STAY AWAY FROM UBUNTU – IT TURNED ME INTO A LINUX JUNKIE!!

    Hi everyone. Until recently I was a self confessed follower of the religion that is Microsoft Operating Systems, believing that nothing else even came close. I was adept at working with Windows desktop OS’s as well as Server 2003 and had carried out a number of rollouts for business clients. I had dabbled in Linux distributions over the years including Caldera, Corel and Mandrake but each time ended up formatting the drives on my test machines and returning to the warm and welcoming arms of Mr Gates – My god.

    Then… Around 8 months or so ago I heard of a new, fresh and vibrant religion called Ubuntu. Out of curiosity and not expecting much I downloaded an ISO of 5.04 and gave it a try. After using it for a few days of prayer I was born again. So much so that I started promoting Ubuntu-loaded new computers in my business as an alternative to Windows ones, reformatted the drives of all our test and demo boxes and there was no escape even for our server which also ended up with Ubuntu on it’s drives.

    To cut a long story short I now eat, drink and sleep (and dream) Ubuntu and open source. I’ve changed career and now work in a Linux environment too.

    So if you don’t want to risk ending up like me… stay far, far away from Ubuntu.

  14. I just switched from FC5 add love Ubuntu with the exception of one major problem, I use adsl but it is constantly disconnecting on my and I am having a dificult time getting it to work.

  15. Also impressed with Ubuntu. Heard it was really popular. When sister in law’s computer died (ie: System would not boot anymore.) Swapped out motherboard. (Windows NEVER seems to be able to handle hardware changes “underneath it” very well) Was unable to get Windows to properly talk to system. After being unable to find previous windows keys presented option of spending $100 – $200 on another copy of Windows XP or installing Linux for free…

    Free sounded good to her. Activated the universe repository and installed a few dozen games to keep her occupied until I got around to using ndis wrapper to give her access to wifif through the linksys usb adapter… So far she seems to really like it.

    I chose Ubuntu just because Gentoo is my personal favorite but I wanted a newbie friendly distro for her. I was impressed… (And still am)

  16. Well I started using Ubuntu breezy about 9 months ago, this was the first distro that would boot on my notebook. When dapper hit flight 7 I formatted the drive and dumped Windows completely, well (I use it in vmware from time to time for school) Anyway I have a notebook that no other OS has liked, that is included Windows. I have an HP Pavilion zv5330us, this is one of the first HT P4’s with an integrated shared ATI Radeon Mobility 128 and the integrated Broadcom 4306 chip-set to complete the process it has the 15.4 Widescreen monitor. I tried many distro’s at last count I have accumulated 78 different distro’s in the last year. Ubuntu is the only one that just works, that includes the Vista Beta 2. So hats off to Ubuntu, but more importantly their community (that is why I keep coming back to Ubuntu).

  17. I recently switched from another distro to Ubuntu and have been very impressed. It was very easy to install and is very easy for the desktop user. The centrino wifi worked out of the box, as did the state-of-the-art ATI FireGL driver. I’m now running XGL as my standard desktop and it gets a lot of fascinated stares.

    On the downside, the system configuration and management isn’t as sophisticated or easy as it is on some of the other distros.

    @lenwood
    “You mention a resolution (1680×1050) that I thought was only used on larger flat panel monitors, but the Inspiron 8600 only has a 15.4 screen.” Ubuntu had no problem at all with the 1600×1200 screen on my Thinkpad. And the fonts are crystal clear.

  18. I too recently had the joy of installing Ubuntu 6.06 on my laptop. It is a Toshiba M45 variant that I bought in a moment of weakness with out researching its components very much. Up until 6.06 came out I dreaded installing a new distro (or even upgrading the kernel). Maybe it was me but every other distro I tried with the laptop had me having to manually configure both the wireless and the Ethernet on the laptop (and getting everything I needed on the laptop was a PITA without any networking). With Ubuntu 6.06 they just worked out of the box. It was the first time that I ever installed Linux on a laptop painlessly. In fact I was so impressed with how easy the installer was to use that I said on my blog that I finally felt that Linux was ready for the “computer literate” public at large (not just super gurus).

  19. Hi,

    Ubuntu 6.06 and a Fujitsu P5010.

    Wireless / Network all worked perfectly Only had to search Google to resolve display resolution (1280 X 768).

    USB keys and external drives just worked. Loaded FSpot rather than Picasa and am very happy.

    All fixed and it works well.

  20. I’ve tried Ubuntu and can’t get half the stuff working on my laptop that Kanotix does out of the box.

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